Let's get the negative stuff out of the way first as I have only one solitary gripe about 'Wagonwheel Blues' the debut album from Philadelphia's The War on Drugs. At 43 minutes I just wish that it was longer.
It is oft observed that movies released early in the season miss out on the accolades when it comes to the Academy Awards. 'And the Oscar goes to...' well usually the film most fresh in the memory of the Academy members. With this in mind I shall duly make a note in my diary for December 2008. It will read 'must remember to seriously consider 'Wagonwheel Blues' for my nomination for 'album of the year'. Perhaps I'm being somewhat premature and that in due course another release will yet supersede this – but it will have to be special because 'Wagonwheel Blues' is an absolute corker of an album.
Those things that look so perfect on paper do not always prove to be so in reality. The answer is not always equal to the sum of the parts. The trophy-less years of the Real Madrid 'Galacticos' era are testimony to the difficulty of creating the dream team. It is with wonder then that 'The War on Drugs' have managed to draw up a wish list of sounds which when thrown into the mixing desk cauldron have created the most magical potion. Instead of 'the eye of a newt and toe of a frog' the band have whisked in the following ingredients;
The resulting 'Wagonwheel Blues' mixture sounds both exactly, and simultaneously absolutely nothing, like this list of luminaries. Where some bands ape and imitate their heroes (yes that's you Explorer's Club) The War on Drugs give a polite nod of acknowledgement and thanks for the directions proffered before independently setting out to explore a path entirely of their own choosing. As the band say they roll like 'a Wagonwheel with a monkey on your back' but then remind the listener that 'there is no need. There is no need for urgency'. This road is littered with escapades that exhilarate as they build but with a tantalising tease so that the final destination remains for ever just over the brow of the next hill.
In case I have been too subtle, and I didn't think I have, then I shall bang you over the head one last time. 'Wagonwheel Blues' is a great album and I encourage you to give 'The War on Drugs' a hearing.